Well, there's a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is the picture of a programmer's desk, above. If you were a programmer yourself, can you imagine entering this guy's room and asking for advice about how to make a program easier to use for old ladies?
This is the domain of the ubernerd. The guy's obviously obsessed with computing, has no girlfriend, eats his meals (frozen TV dinners, Kraft macaroni, canned chili) in front of his computer, and has a huge collection of action figures. This guy, who rarely sees the light of day, sets the standard for other programmers. A guy like this couldn't even imagine a project less interesting than making programs easy to use.
At least that's what David Platt says in his recent book (above) on the subject. Platt's a programmer himself and he used to be an ubernerd. He only changed when he started designing sites for big companies who had a financial stake in being accessable to the public. If you don't want to buy the book, try his websites: "whysoftwaresucks.com" and "suckbusters!"
According to Platt, programmers who try to make programs easy to use have no status at all where they work. Real status comes from increasing control, from figuring out how to increase the number of options for things, from helping the user to customize, and from making toolbars and desktops look pretty.
I'm not kidding about the pretty thing. A long time ago, when I got my first computer (a gift from John K) I lost a couple of hours trying to find the start icon on the computer screen. Everybody told me it was on the lower left but I didn't see anything there. I wanted to scream. Finally a programmer friend came over my place and, with eyes rolled up to show his annoyance, used a keyboard command to scroll up. From the bottom of the screen, below anything you could see, emerged a start icon. Just like a submarine surfacing. I was shocked! Dumbfounded, I asked why anyone would hide a thing like that and he said it was necessary to make the screen more beautiful! He actually admired the people who made it that way!
That brings us to another point, namely that a large number of hardcore programmers consider themselves to be Nietzscean supermen and social Darwinists. They see themselves as a superior race. People who have trouble with programs are the unfit, the weak, the chaff -- those who need to be weeded out, or at least not catered to.
That's such an odd attitude. Don't the programmers benefit from the simplicity of supermarkets where all the types of food are conveniently under the same roof? Don't they benefit from the convenience of hospitals, departments stores and large electronic stores? If they benefit from the work of others who made things simple for them, how can they be so hard-hearted when it's their turn to return the favor?
Sometimes I wonder how valuable these people really are to the companies who hire them. They create value, no doubt, but they also remove value. How many people held off from buying programs or devices because they didn't want to wade through thick and boring instruction manuals?
America on Line got to be big enough to buy Time Warner because they attempted to make the internet more easy to use. There's clearly a dollar to be made by making things easy, but the ubernerds aren't interested in that dollar, in fact they have disdain for it. Are they really serving the best interest of their employers?